Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dog Fights Are Scary

A few days ago I broke up a serious dog fight between two dogs. I was out in the backyard with Pandora (deaf Boxer), Eeyore (deaf American Staffordshire Terrier) and Gus (hearing Basset Hound mix). These dogs have been living together in my house for several weeks now with no problems and we’d been out there for awhile when suddenly a fight started between Gus and Eeyore.

Gus may be vertically challenged, but he refuses to let that slow him down. He’s one of the most stubborn dogs I know, and when he decided Eeyore got too much into his space, he attacked him. Eeyore decided not to back down, and suddenly a full-blown fight was in progress. Although I was standing just a few feet away, I was unable to distract the dogs or break up the fight immediately. I tossed the contents of the outside water bowl on the dogs with no effect, and then turned the hose on them full force which also had no effect. I then grabbed Eeyore by his back legs and picked him up off of the ground. At that point he had a hold of Gus and wasn’t letting go. Most dog breeds will snap erratically at their opponent, biting and releasing repeatedly. But dogs of the terrier breed, including pit bulls, will usually bite and hold. So at this point I’m standing there holding Eeyore upside down completely off the ground and trying to drag him away while he continues holding onto Gus and shaking his head. I was terrified, but Gus apparently wasn’t, because for a second Eeyore let go, and instead of running away, Gus came right back at him and renewed the fight. Did I mention he’s stubborn? This time Eeyore got a good grip on Gus’ front leg and wouldn’t let go. I ran into the house and grabbed a break stick – an emergency tool that I had purchased more than a year ago but never before had to use. I ran back to Eeyore and put the break stick into his mouth and twisted. Instantly Eeyore was biting the break stick and Gus was free. This time Gus got smart and ran into the house as fast as his little legs could carry him. I then held onto Eeyore’s collar and walked him to the door so I could go inside while ensuring that Eeyore could not follow me into the house. Eeyore walked calmly beside me as if nothing was going on, while I was in a panic over what had just happened.

I rushed Gus to the emergency vet clinic, and he had to get stitches in his front leg and chest. The vet tech asked what happened and I said he was in a fight with a pit bull, and she muttered “I’m getting really tired of those dogs.” And I felt horrible that I just contributed to the bad image that pit bulls have, when I know they are wonderful dogs and I know that Gus is the one that started the fight, not Eeyore. So I almost didn’t write this blog post, because the last thing these poor dogs need is more bad press. But there is so much misinformation about pit bulls out there, that I can only hope by sharing my experience I will help someone else who may someday be in the same situation. The truth is, pit bulls are not just like other dogs, at least not when it comes to dog fights. It’s not all in how they’re raised, and it’s also not all in their genes and whether they came from fighting lines. It’s not even how they’re trained or managed 100% of the time. Eeyore is a smart dog who has learned basic obedience commands and loves human attention. He has been around many other dogs and even spent a week at a doggy day care facility without any issues. But any dog of any breed can get in a dog fight, and it’s important that multi-dog households are aware of that. Responsible owners should take measures to prevent such fights, but should also be prepared for the worst.

There is a lot of good information out there on how to break up a dog fight. I would suggest reading it now because if a fight ever happens you’re not going to have time to go read it then. Most importantly, be cautious when trying to break up a fight. Don’t get bit in the process. Don’t grab a dog’s collar or place a leg or arm in between two dogs who are fighting. If you have a pit bull type of dog, buy a break stick, or make your own. Because as scary as it is to witness a dog fight, it’s even more scary to not be able to break them up. Break sticks should not be used on breeds of dogs other than pit bulls, but I can now attest to the fact that it worked great on a pit-bull type dog who was biting and would not let go. I hope I never need to use one again, but if I ever do find myself in a similar situation I will panic a little bit less and feel a lot more prepared to deal with the situation.

10 comments:

Blueberry's human said...

Thankfully, I knew most of the how-to's of breaking up a fight - except for the break stick.

Gosh - how frightening! I guess it would have been too late to let the vet know that Gus was the actual instigator. Once some people hear pit bull and fight in the same sentence - they naturally assume the pit bull started it. I'm so glad you knew what to do and weren't injured yourself. I still think Eeyore is a sweet dog and hopefully any potential adopters are aware that even the sweetest dogs will at times fight with other dogs or at least defend themselves. I wrote a post of how my sweet Blueberry actually went after a foster that was old, overweight and in pretty poor health and was facing away from her. Up til that point I never would have believed she could be capable of such ferocity. Lesson learned.

Thanks for your honesty and again - glad Gus or Eeyore were not fatally wounded! So...did you get a few gray hairs from the experience? ;)

Laurie Metzger said...

Blueberry's human - I did make sure to let the vet's employees know that Gus was the instigator. Even though it might make someone say "those Bassets...always causing trouble!" And yeah I got several more gray hairs after that. :-)

Abby (Doggerel) said...

Ugh, I am so sorry! Dog fights just turn my stomach; they make me feel so ill. Having witnessed a really bad one in our front yard (between our GSD foster and a potential adopter's GSD), it is not something I ever want to witness again. I'm glad you were able to break it up without serious injury to yourself, and hopefully the dogs are recuperating OK.

Liz said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. I encourage pit bull parents to share these stories with each other so that everyone is better prepared and cautious. I am certain that break sticks have saved the lives of several dogs I know as well as prevented serious injury to people. The link you provided is one of the only places a conscientious pit bull parent can buy a break stick and not benefit someone with questionable ethics regarding dog fighting.

Lisa s said...

I know how scary dog fights can be. We had an alpha female Chow/Akita mix that attacked our older Chow mix a few times. She almost killed him once but the emergency room saved him. They got along great except for a few times. They ended up dying within 6 weeks of each other. Kudos to you for breaking it up without injury to you or very serious injuries (or death) to the dogs.

Navit said...

We have a pit mix and a basset hound and the basset hound is the instigator 100% of the time and she is definitely a stubborn little thing. I'll admit I probably find her especially difficult compared to our very well-behaved pittie. They've never gotten into a fight like the one you described but not for the basset's lack of trying! Many of the other basset people I've talked to have also experienced stubbornness and instigation with other dogs; fortunately they balance it out by also being extremely expressive, goofy, and entertaining.

Ruckus Eskie said...

Great idea..break stick. That's the first time I've heard of it. I actually wrote a similar blog post regarding dog fights and dog safety a few days back regarding my friend Miss Ivy.

Ruckus the Eskie
www.ruckustheeskie.com

Marilyn said...

Laurie - you truly amaze me!
Marilyn

Anonymous said...

I am GLAD you wrote this, people need to know these things. I am all for spreading positivity about pit bulls, am. staffs, and similar bully breeds, but we need to stop masking the truth from people. A lot of people think that if you get a bully breed and socialize it with dogs it will have no issues, and that isn't always 100% true. Even if they don't start a fight, they will tend to try and finish it, and they tend to hold on to another dog where as most other breeds bite and let go rapidly. More people need to learn that and also pit owners should know what a break stick is.

Thank you SO much for giving this article and I am glad Eeyore and Gus are alright. (:

Overweight Perfectionist said...

Laurie,
Like you I am also a foster mom (and also feel its my calling) but I have also had several fights in my house. Much to peoples surprise I don't have a pit bull, the fight is usually surrounding a 3 legged black lab. I have broken up several fights and it is scary and you feel out of control. I have had specialized trainers in our house and our issues are very minimal now. I cried when I read this because I feel like a failure when a fight happens and like it is all my fault. I have gotten better at seeing signs, etc and can prevent 99% of them. I am just so happy that someone can share the reality of fostering dogs and a multi dog home. Thank you for sharing this story and helping others like me by being a mentor and support. Makes me proud to be a foster mom!